In December of last year, Governor Bryant announced that 2014 was to be the year of the creative economy in Mississippi. This celebration will feature events and activities throughout the State in an attempt to highlight the depth and breadth of our creative talent here in Mississippi.
According to Malcolm White, the tourism director for the Mississippi Development Authority, “Mississippi’s creative economy is a direct source of economic growth and wealth, accounting for more than 60,000 jobs across the State.” From tech focused businesses to the culinary arts and our emerging craft beer industry, we have a lot to be proud of as Mississippians.
While I believe that the creative economy is worth celebrating in Mississippi and I am truly blessed to work with some unbelievably creative people; the celebration of our creative economy should not overshadow the need for us to enable creative communities. So, what do I mean by a creative community?
Creative communities are those communities that have shifted from a traditional community context of one where citizens simply pay taxes and receive public services to a place where all engaged individuals play a critical role in the problem-solving process. The individuals of a particular community are heavily engaged in shaping policy, projects, or services based on a very specific community based need. Meaningful and inclusive participation in the process yields better solutions for our highly complex and ever evolving urban sustainability issues.
Creative communities are centrally focused on neighborhood revitalization, realistic economic development and resiliency strategies, environmentally conscious sustainability standards, the preservation and development of affordable housing, inclusive business practices, and economic equality. While there is no formula for effective creative community development, fundamentally, creative community development is place-based problem-solving. It is engaging. It is experimenting. It is reconciling. It is trend and pattern recognition. It is empowering. And most importantly, it is measurable.
Let us celebrate our creative economy Mississippi; but let us also embrace a discussion on what it means to enable creative communities. For a creative economy can only truly flourish in a creative community.